Prep baseball: West Rowan 8, South Rowan 5
By David Shaw
MOUNT ULLA ó The members of West Rowan’s baseball team can remove those bags from their heads.
Seven games into their season, the Falcons earned their first victory Tuesday night ó 8-5 over visiting South Rowan.
“It’s been a challenge,” coach David Wright said after West (1-6, 1-3 NPC) banged out 12 hits and received some top-shelf relief work from pitcher D.J. Webb. “We’ve faced some good teams, but at no time did we panic. The difference tonight was we found a way to win.”
They found it because Webb, who relieved ineffective starter Zack Simpson, smoothed all the edges. He entered with the score tied 4-4 in the top of the third inning and fanned Jacob Dietz, leaving the bases loaded.
“We missed some opportunities,” South coach Thad Chrismon said. “We loaded the bases twice early in the game and didn’t score. That should have been a couple of runs right there. Still, we’ve got a bunch of battlers and they battled.”
South (4-5, 1-5) never led, but it rallied from a 4-0 deficit and tied the score against Simpson with a four-run third inning. Losing pitcher Preston Penninger delivered one with a rare infield hit. Steve Erwin drew a bases-loaded walk, and two other runs scored on wild pitches.
“Zack was a little out of character,” West teammate Jon Crucitti said. “That’s something we hadn’t seen this season. But fortunately D.J. was able to come in and get out of some tough spots.”
Simpson, who brought an 0-3 record into the game, pitched in and out of trouble in the first two innings. In the third, when South sent 10 batters to the plate, he issued four walks and hit a batter.
“In the three games Zack had thrown up to this point, he carried us,” Wright said. “He always gave us a chance to win. Tonight he couldn’t find it.”
Webb did. Blending an assortment of fastballs, curves and changeups, he retired the first six men he faced and struck out five in 41/3 innings. He didn’t allow a hit until Blake Houston smashed a groundball single into right field leading off the South sixth. Houston was erased when he was caught stealing on a botched hit-and-run play.
“When I came in I felt like the game was just starting,” Webb said. “It was still tied. Then, once we started scoring, we just kept going.”
West took a 5-4 lead in the fifth when Crucitti laced a double to right-center ó his third extra-base hit of the game. Hernan Bautista’s bunt single put runners on the corners before Brantley Horton lifted a sacrifice fly for his third RBI of the night. The Falcons scored three insurance runs in the sixth.
“So far through six games we’ve had good pitching and good defense, but we haven’t been getting the timely hits,” Horton said. “That’s what we did tonight.”
West shortstop Philip Miclat went 3-for-3, scored twice and knocked in a pair of runs. Crucitti sandwiched a couple of well-stroked doubles around an RBI triple in the first inning and a sac fly in the sixth.
“Maybe the style of our practices was the key,” he said. “We’ve taken a laid-back approach. We’re still focused, but we’re relaxed.”
Chrismon felt Webb made the difference.
“He pounded the strike zone and made the most of his opportunities,” Chrismon said. “We hit some balls hard early, but he really pitched well.”